Reaching His GoalsBy Ruth Keyso, Director of Alumni Relations & Giving
Talk about living the dream. Midfielder Jourdan Gooden ’12 is one of those lucky athletes making a living playing the sport he loves: soccer.
But Jourdan prefers to think of himself as blessed. Hard work, a supportive family, and lots of sacrifice combined to make his childhood dream of becoming a footballer a reality.
“That’s the most rewarding part of this job: to get up every day and play the sport you love,” he says. “It’s a blessing, this opportunity. Not everyone gets to do it. I don’t take that for granted.”
Jourdan has been playing soccer since age four. While he dabbled in other sports growing up—basketball, American football, track, swimming—his soul is tied to soccer.
A former member of the U-15 National Team, Jourdan attended LFA for his senior year of high school, where he was part of the Caxy varsity squad while also playing for the prestigious Chicago Fire Academy.
He says everything stands out about his one year as a boarder at LFA.
“I brag about LFA til the lights go out,” he says, laughing. “There were lots of opportunities,” he explains, citing prep school life, a challenging academic environment, and a community of students from different backgrounds and cultures.
“People accepted me for who I was [at LFA]. They were happy to have me there,” he remembers. “LFA was an all-around great community to be in.”
Jourdan cherishes the friends he made at the Academy and the teachers who instilled thoughts and philosophies he draws on today. He credits English teachers David Wick and Nat Small for encouraging a love and appreciation for writing, a pastime he engages in regularly.
Photo Credit: Ana Maria Pinto Costa
From LFA, Jourdan signed on with the Eagles at Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU), where he played for the Div I team for two years before transferring to Mercer University. One of the highlights of his college playing days was winning both the regular season conference title and subsequent conference tournament, and making it to the NCAA tourney as a freshman.
“This was a good start, the right start [to my career],” he says.
In January 2016 Jourdan signed on with the Portuguese semi-professional football team Associação Naval 1º de Maio. A midfielder, he is the only American on the squad, which comprises men from Senegal, El Salvador, Italy, Kyrgyzstan, and Portugal. The international players speak English among themselves, he says, but when around their Portuguese teammates they do their best to speak the native language of their new home.
While he misses his family back in Florida, Jourdan says he is adapting well to life in Portugal, learning the language and appreciating the culture of this southwestern European country. He has even developed a taste for one of the region’s most well-known dishes: bacalhau (codfish).
Looking ahead, Jourdan hopes to make soccer a lifelong career. One of his biggest accomplishments thus far is rising to this level in the sport. He says he has been guided by good advice along his journey: believe in yourself, in your ability, and in your capacity. To young athletes who aspire to play sports professionally, Jourdan offers the following:
“Identify what you love, what you get a thrill out of, then pursue that with everything you’ve got,” he says. “You don’t know where the road will take you. The most important thing is to listen to your heart.”
TV show: Teen Wolf
Junk food: pizza
Music: hip hop, soul, R&B, reggae, dance hall, electronic dance
Pro sports team: Manchester United
Sports role model: David Beckham
On his bookshelf: Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, The 33 Strategies of War, Only the Strong Survive, Beckham: Both Feet on the Ground, The Bible
Jourdan Gooden is a 2012 graduate of Lake Forest Academy. A native of Florida, he matriculated at Florida Gulf Coast University and Mercer University, where he earned his bachelor’s degree, with honors, in business administration and management in 2015. Since January 2016, he has been playing semi-professional soccer in Portugal with the Associação Naval 1º de Maio.
Choose groups to clone to: